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What you need to know about Holocaust education

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This week the Education Secretary visited Auschwitz-Birkenau to discuss the role of education in eradicating antisemitism and making sure young people are aware of the atrocities of the holocaust.

But what happens in the education system to make sure pupils and young people understand the lessons we must all learn from the Holocaust? Here we look at what is being done to educate about the Holocaust and  combat antisemitism.

Is the Holocaust taught in schools?

We believe that every young person should learn about the Holocaust and the lessons it teaches us today.

In recognition of its significance, the Holocaust is the only historic event which is compulsory within the history curriculum. Pupils must be taught about it at at Key Stage 3 (usually when pupils are aged 13-14). The Holocaust has been a named topic within the history curriculum since the first curriculum of 1991.

Is there special funding to support teaching children and young people about the Holocaust?

We also further support school pupils’ and teachers’ understanding of the Holocaust by providing funding for the following:

  • the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz project - this project gives post-16 students the opportunity to learn about the Holocaust and consider its relevance for today. As part of the project, students can learn about the history of the Holocaust and the role of camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and reflect on the relevance of the Holocaust today and share their learning with others. This project is currently operating online: Holocaust Educational Trust - Lessons from Auschwitz Project (
  • UCL’s Centre for Holocaust Education - this is the only specialist institute supporting teachers on Holocaust education in the classroom. The Centre brings together large-scale national research into the classroom with educational approaches, activities and materials that respond to the challenges of teaching and learning about this highly complex and emotive subject.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi went to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp this week to see how the Holocaust Education Trust works with schools all over the country, including by taking pupils to see the camp first-hand.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said:

Holocaust education is vital and this trip has reinforced the value of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau. We will continue to support giving young people the same opportunity to visit this historic site.

Karen Pollock CBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Education Trust said:

There is nothing quite like seeing the site where one million Jewish men, women and children were murdered. Seeing the mounds of hair, the piles of children’s shoes, the suitcases  - it is these images that leave an indelible mark and the reality of the events of the Holocaust begin to sink in.

We are very grateful to the Secretary of State for sparing the time to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. His visit follows in the footsteps of thousands of young people who have had the opportunity to visit as part of our Lessons from Auschwitz Project, thanks to support from the Department for Education.

The Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers, but started with words. That is why education is so important and why stamping out antisemitism today is crucial, so we welcome today’s announcement on ensuring that Higher Education institutions adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. Antisemitism has no place in any educational institution or society as a whole.

What is the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and why is important that organisations sign up to its definition of antisemitism?

The IHRA is a leading international organisation focused on eradicating antisemitism in public life and educating about the holocaust.

In order to properly tackle antisemitism, it is necessary for everyone to have a clear understanding of what it is and what it looks like. So, the IHRA is establishing global consensus around a single, agreed definition.

The definition is:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

The more institutions sign up to this definition the easier it is for everyone to present a united front in the fight against antisemitism.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism is the gold standard in the international community, and an important step in tackling antisemitism because it sends a clear signal that universities takes these issues seriously.

Today, The Office for Students (OfS) has published a list of higher education providers which have adopted the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. This shows a substantial rise in the number of providers that have adopted the IHRA definition over the last 12 months, from around 30 to over 210.

Universities are also expected to consistently review their policies in this area to ensure that they are meeting the needs of Jewish students and staff and are in line with their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

What can schools do if they want to improve the Holocaust education they offer?

 The Government has continued to take action to support schools in this area, including:

  • Providing over £3.5 million of funding to anti-bullying organisations like the Anne Frank Trust, between 2016 and 2021.
  • Launching the Educate Against Hate website in 2016 to provide teachers, school leaders and parents with the information, guidance and support they need to challenge radical views and keep their children safe, including from online extremist influences.
  • Funding a network of Prevent Education Officers employed by local authorities, who play a key role in supporting schools fulfil their Prevent duty responsibilities to safeguard individuals vulnerable to radicalisation.
  • Committing to improving behaviour and discipline in the classroom. All schools are required by law to have a behaviour policy which outlines measures to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils.

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